What tools do dentists use to clean teeth?

Updated July 19, 2017

Professional dental cleanings are the best way to prevent or prolong gum disease and other health conditions associated with the gums and teeth. Dentists have the tools they need to remove plaque and tartar build-up on the teeth that a normal toothbrush cannot. It's recommended that adults with healthy teeth visit their dentist at least once a year or at the very most every two years for a professional teeth cleaning. Dentists may recommend appointments more often depending on the individual. Dentists will let patients know how often to be in for a professional cleaning.

Ultrasonic Instrument

An ultrasonic instrument is one of the first tools used by dentists during the teeth cleaning process. This particular instrument is used with water while creating high frequency vibrations that help to loosen plaque and tartar.

Fine Hand Tools

Once the tartar and plaque have been loosened, small hand tools are then used to scrape the tartar build-up off of the teeth, which will help to smooth the surface of the teeth so that they can then be polished. Fine hand tools include mouth mirrors, which help the dentist see virtually anywhere inside the mouth. Various scrapers of different sizes and angles are also used to reach different teeth and areas of the mouth in order to free teeth of plaque and tartar build-up.

Electric Tooth Polisher

After the plaque and tartar have been scraped off, the dentist will use an electric tooth polisher. The polisher is dipped into a gritty paste which is then massaged onto the teeth, making them more smooth and polished. Keeping the teeth smooth helps to prevent the plaque from sticking to them in between professional teeth cleanings.


The final tool used by dentists during teeth cleaning is fluoride. Fluoride isn't necessarily used at every cleaning visit, but when it is, it will always be the last process. During a fluoride treatment, a flavoured gel is put onto flexible trays that are then placed inside the mouth over the teeth. Fluoride helps to strengthen the enamel of the teeth and comes in a variety of flavours that the patient can choose from, including strawberry, bubblegum and pina colada.

Saliva Ejector

Saliva ejectors are completely harmless tools used to control moisture throughout the teeth cleaning process by using a small amount of suction to rid the mouth of excess saliva, blood and other excess dental material.

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About the Author

Melinda Friedland has been a published Web writer since 2007 after taking several college-level English courses. She has written content for websites like Demand Studios and Suite101. She enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics, specializing in health and fitness. She's also a personal trainer who is currently studying to become certified in the state of Minnesota.